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  • MORAL DEPRAVITY - B,
    CHARLES FINNEY SYS. THEOLOGY

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    Of what moral depravity can be predicated.

    1. Not of substance; for over involuntary substance the moral law does not directly legislate.

    2. Moral depravity cannot be predicated of any involuntary acts or states of mind. These surely cannot be violations of moral law apart from the ultimate intention; for moral law legislates directly only over free, intelligent choices.

    3. Moral depravity cannot be predicated of any unintelligent act of will, that is, of acts of will that are put forth in a state of idiocy, of intellectual derangement, or of sleep. Moral depravity implies moral obligation; moral obligation implies moral agency; and moral agency implies intelligence, or knowledge of moral relations. Moral agency implies moral law, or the development of the idea of duty, and a knowledge of what duty is.

    4. Moral depravity can only be predicated of violations of moral law, and of the free volitions by which those violations are perpetrated. Moral law, as we have seen, requires love, and only love, to God and man, or to God and the universe. This love, as we have seen, is goodwill, choice, the choice of an end, the choice of the highest well-being of God, and of the universe of sentient existences.

    Moral depravity is sin. Sin is a violation of moral law. We have seen that sin must consist in choice, in the choice of self-indulgence or self-gratification as an end.

    5. Moral depravity cannot consist in any attribute of nature or constitution, nor in any lapsed and fallen state of nature; for this is physical and not moral depravity.

    6. It cannot consist in anything that is an original and essential part of mind, or of body; nor in any involuntary action or state of either mind or body.

    7. It cannot consist in anything back of choice, and that sustains to choice the relation of a cause. Whatever is back of choice, is without the pale of legislation. The law of God, as has been said, requires good willing only; and sure it is, that nothing but acts of will can constitute a violation of moral law. Outward actions, and involuntary thoughts and feelings, may be said in a certain sense to possess moral character because they are produced by the will. But, strictly speaking, moral character belongs only to choice, or intention.

    It was shown in a former lecture, that sin does not, and cannot consist in malevolence, properly speaking, or in the choice of sin or misery as an end, or for its own sake. It was also shown, that all sin consists, and must consist in selfishness, or in the choice of self-gratification as a final end. Moral depravity then, strictly speaking, can only be predicated of selfish ultimate intention.

    Moral depravity, as I use the term, does not consist in, nor imply a sinful nature, in the sense that the substance of the human soul is sinful in itself. It is not a constitutional sinfulness. It is not an involuntary sinfulness. Moral depravity, as I use the term, consists in selfishness; in a state of voluntary committal of the will to self-gratification. It is a spirit of self-seeking, a voluntary and entire consecration to the gratification of self. It is selfish ultimate intention; it is the choice of a wrong end of life; it is moral depravity, because it is a violation of moral law. It is a refusal to consecrate the whole being to the highest well-being of God and of the universe, and obedience to the moral law, and consecrating it to the gratification of self. Moral depravity sustains to the outward life, the relation of a cause. This selfish intention, or the will in this committed state, of course, makes efforts to secure its end, and these efforts make up the outward life of the selfish man. Moral depravity is sinfulness, not of nature but of voluntary state. It is a sinfully committed state of the will to self-indulgence. It is not a sinful nature but a sinful heart. It is a sinful ultimate aim, or intention. The Greek term amartia, rendered sin in our English Bible, signifies to miss the mark, to aim at the wrong end. Sin is a wrong aim, or intention. It is aiming at, or intending self-gratification as the ultimate and supreme end of life, instead of aiming, as the moral law requires, at the highest good of universal being, as the end of life.

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